Simon R. Doubleday is the author of The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance.
From his Q & A with Deborah Kalb:
Q: Why did you decide to write a book about the 13th century Spanish ruler Alfonso X, and what surprised you most in the course of your research?--Marshal Zeringue
A: I’ve always been drawn to medieval Spain: it’s a period of extraordinary cultural vitality, as well as instability and change.
To see the architecture of this period—the Gothic cathedrals of León or Burgos (which Alfonso helped to construct), or the Alhambra (built by the Muslim kings of Granada, who were sometimes his uneasy allies)—is to recognize at once that vitality; to hear the music (especially the Cantigas de Santa María) is to be drawn into a lost world.
Alfonso X was a king who was famed across Europe for his scientific learning, and who remains a household name in Spain, but who is largely unknown to English-speaking audiences outside the academic world, so I was attracted by the challenge of introducing him to a new public.
He actually played a slightly villainous role in my first book, the story of an aristocratic family who fell out with him midway through his reign, but the deeper I researched him, the more dazzled I was by his cultural achievements, and the more compelling I found the task of tracing his inner, emotional life.
There are many emotional surprises in the book: perhaps especially his warm relationship with his first-born daughter Beatriz, an “illegitimate” child who was born before his marriage but became queen of ...[read on]